Residents of the tiny Oregon beach town of Tierra del Mar were attempting to go to battle with Facebook as the company moves to begin drilling a landing spot there for a fiber-optic cable from Asia, but Facebook won out with the county because there was no legislation against such projects.
Competition for cable bandwidth among big tech companies has been fierce. And as internet use in Asia and the developing world in particular has exploded in recent years, so too has the need for more physical, undersea cable that transmits data thousands of miles.
"The reality is that the cloud is actually under the ocean," says Nicole Starosielski, an associate professor of media, culture and communication at New York University, speaking to the Associated Press. "Files in the cloud are typically housed in a data center. But it doesn't become a cloud unless there are cables."
There are already 800 landing spots for undersea cables worldwide, and Facebook already has four cables in place that land in the larger Oregon coastal town of Pacific City. But there apparently isn't room to land a fifth, which is why Facebook bought up a property on the beach in Tierra Del Mar — a town of 200 or so homes 65 miles southwest of Portland.
Residents aren't having it, though, and after they learned of the purchase of the $500K property from former NFL and University of Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, townspeople are trying to mount some opposition to the cable project.
As the AP reports, signs have gone up saying "Keep Facebook Off Our Beach," and they've been appealing to county officials to put the breaks on the project.
Writing to those officials, resident Patricia Rogers argues, "This is a huge precedent. Once you open the shores to these companies coming anywhere they want to, Oregon's coast is pretty much wide open season."
And these locals have some experience with mounting such campaigns — per the AP they successfully deterred a developer from turning a nearby farm into a luxury golf course in recent years.
Facebook says that there are very few areas on the coast where such a cabling project is feasible, because of the potential of interfering with fishing areas and fishing equipment, and other environmental restrictions. And the company issued a boilerplate statement on the project saying only, "With more people using the internet, existing internet infrastructure is struggling to handle all the traffic. These new cable projects help people connect more efficiently."
Despite community protest, the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to allow Facebook's project to move forward, as the News Guard reports.
Asked about the project, state Rep. David Gomberg (D- Otis) only said, “Facebook has followed the letter of the law, but hasn’t been a good neighbor.”